If you’re in Louisville, there’s a little competition here (well, there are many, but bear with me here). You might’ve heard of it. Year-in and year-out, students, professional designers, agencies, and in-house teams work even later into the night/morning to reflect upon a year’s worth of their work and decide upon the sharpest, finest examples – a daunting task, to be sure. And, with judges pouring over every detail of every submission, 100 are chosen to stand tallest among them all in: the LGDA 100 Show.
Pretty epic, right? After taking an extremely busy year away from the show, we jumped back into this year’s arena with a slew of work spreading across a variety of uses and devices. After a lot of stiff (but friendly) competition, when the dust was settled, I’m proud to say that we walked away with a Bronze award for our work on Figment.com!
For the uninformed, Figment is a thriving teen writing community focused mainly on Young Adult fiction. Users can write and publish their own stories, follow other authors, join in community discussions through forums and writing groups as well as enter writing contests. But, just because that community is thriving, don’t think for a second that it means we and the Figment team are simply kicking back and watching the good times roll by. Figment.com is under the constant microscope of improvement, with every interaction and piece of user feedback considered in order to make the Figment experience as engaging and intuitive as possible. In a time when the phrase “social web community” has steadily watched its very meaning diluted to the point of negligence, Figment stands out as a true “community” in every sense of the word and I’m glad to see some of the partnership-defining efforts, thought, and dedication of our team recognized locally among the “best of the best”.
This year’s awards presentation event took place in one of the many restoration projects at the heart of NuLu: The Marcus Lindsey. Throughout the evening, while catching up with other local designers, surveying the winning selections, and collecting our accolades, a number of design-related topics sprung forth as you can imagine, and the web was no simple dwarf among giants. And, when it comes to our scene here, I walked away with a few points worth sharing, I believe.
1) The boulder (some might argue it’s a mountain) that more than occasionally manifests along the path between the print and web design lands is slowly eroding…sort of. With a rising number of web shops and agencies, there seems to be a genuine rise of interest from print designers in Louisville to understand the process and the fine details of what it takes to create a solid interactive/web experience. And that’s fantastic! What we do is communicate and help our clients, partners, and their users communicate – across the board. A greater understanding of the logic, nuances, and trends in the methods of delivery can only help strengthen the success of that communication.
2) So, again…sort of. There’s still a need for quite a bit of education. How does that Robert Frost poem go…?
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep”
A few conversations pointed to a lack of clarity in the minds of many non-web folk regarding the difference certain roles in this field encompass (such as “designer” and “front-end developer”) and how we work with one another. This is completely understandable, as oftentimes the lines between such roles are blurry and furthermore, one person can exist in both roles and yet title themselves singularly as one or the other. There’s also some difficulty in understanding or relating to what makes a great web/interactive experience, even though some of that knowledge is already within each person. The good news? This is something that can be approached and coached with some good old-fashioned reaching across the aisle. Those of us in the field can help by being more engaged in activities that we feel are usually “non-web” design events/organizations (which is more often than not a misconception). And, non-web people? Come hang out with us. The web community in the city of Louisville is great. We’re friendly people, most of us like beer and/or bourbon, and a portion of us have a fair amount of print/non-web knowledge or backgrounds. So, if you have an interest in learning more or even getting started with the web, reach out to us (cough cough Build Guild cough cough…ahem…) – we’re always glad to talk. And, we’ll promise to do the same.
3) When it comes to submitting web-based interactive work for award show critique: we need something besides the “old methods”. Web/interactive work isn’t created with the same resolutions that print work requires, and printing/mounting work that is meant to be viewed and interacted with in a myriad of environments – your desktop, smart-phones, and/or tablet devices – eliminates two-thirds of the experience for which it should be judged. And it creates a lot of waste, at the end of the competition. With the opportunities now available to us for collaborating on work across great distances, there has to be something we can do to bring things into a more modern time.
And, maybe the biggest thing that I took from it: the conversations are there to begin with. Every year the place that web-oriented user-experience design is taking in regards to this industry we think of as “design” doesn’t simply grow, it’s exploding at warp speeds. Understanding what makes a great web/interactive design, and its importance in our lives, will only continue to become ever more important when it comes to judging and entering this type of “all-encompassing” competition. We’re seeing it each and every day, whether we realize it or not. If you thought the 100 show winners were strong THIS year? Well, to finish out this unintended-Tolkien-like novel, I’m positive that “pretty epic” won’t scratch the surface of reactions for what we see in 2013.